This is a boat with a second life.
More than likely, it started life as a gill net boat, back before the 1994 net ban. In 1994, Floridians used a constitutional amendment to ban certain entangling nets and limit others. Concerned voters went the constitutional amendment route because our mostly worthless, lobbyist loving, legislators could not enact a regulation with the same effect.
Voters got fed up and did an endrun around them. Now the constitutional amendment process seems to be out of hand with numerous ones each year. These days, I vote no on all of them as a protest to this type of law making. We have a legislature for a reason and constitutions should not be loaded with amendments ... in my opinion.
But back to this boat ... it's a bird dog boat, a style I've written about before. They were designed to lay hundreds of yards of gill nets out the back of the boat as you raced around a school of fish like mullet.
When the net ban passed, bird dogs began fading away. The little town near PFHQ had a legendary bird dog boat builder named Tremblay and his business faded away too. The commercial netters either switched their fishing methods, faded away, or became clam farmers.
Cedar Key is now THE center for clam farming in the US.
Let's walk around this beautiful bird dog clam farmer boat I found parked at Cedar Key a few weeks ago.
On a bird dog, the motor sits behind the bow with the lower unit and prop poking through a hole in the hull. The magic of this is two fold, it keeps the motor out of the stern area where nets would be tossed out . As a clam farm boat, having the motor up front makes sense too, because very heavy clam bags will be coming aboard at the stern and it's nice to have the motor out of the way.
The second part of this magical design is the fact that as the boat comes on to a plane, the bow lifts the prop up with it and you can literally fly over very skinny water.
It's a beautiful thing.
Bird dogs tend to be wet rides though, so this boat has a nice spray shield installed to keep things a little more comfortable on a winter day when you are travelling out to your clam lease.
Here's a better view of how the motor sits in the hull hole.
Some bird dogs have a transom and some don't. Not having one on a clam boat makes loading those heavy clam bags off the lease and on to the boat a lot easier. The shade cover is a nice touch when you are out there under a blazing sun and it helps to keep harvested clams cool on the ride back to the grader.
The big roller on the top was a part of gill netting so it may be inert now, or they may have a winch to haul bags aboard.
When I search the internet for bird dog boats, I find my stuff and little more, so I'll keep posting about them from time to time as I find good examples.
They are unique Gulf of Florida boats built to to a specific job in very shallow water and they are a bit of an endangered breed, which makes this retrofit and new life a grand thing in my view.
... what? Oh, Why ARE they called "Bird Dogs"?
Picture a guy at the bow steering the boat with his crew behind him ready to deploy a 1000 yard gill net. As they race over the shallow Gulf flats, the man up front is scanning the waters for signs of a school of mullet.
When he sees them, he points and turns the boat toward them for the big circle.